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Concert Reviews:
Sammy Hagar serves up hits, fun at Freedom Hill
 

By GARY GRAFF
Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

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STERLING HEIGHTS -- Sammy Hagar pronounced himself "at your service" to the full house at the Freedom Hill Amphitheatre on Wednesday night, July 23.

And the man known as the Red Rocker certainly fulfilled that vow during his nearly two hours on stage.

Thought titled "A Journey Through the History of Rock," the show was more appropriately a history of Hagar, with the neat wrinkle of having Jason Bonham -- son of the late Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham -- on drums. That lent an authority and authenticity to the four Zep songs Hagar and company laced throughout the show, with Hagar sounding so spot-on during "Good Times Bad Times," "Whole Lotta Love," "Rock and Roll" and a killer take on the Zep arrangement of Memphis Minnie and Kansas Joe McCoy's "When the Levee Breaks" that Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones are probably kicking themselves for not considering Hagar to stand when they were considering going out without Robert Plant a few years ago.

"Feels like a good band to me," Hagar exulted after "Whole Lotta Love," also acknowledging his former Van Halen bandmate Michael Anthony on bass and longtime guitarist Vic Johnson. "To play (these Zep songs) with Jason and play 'em right, I'm lovin' it!"

Of course, the Hagar crew also played his material -- solo and from his days with Van Halen, Montrose and the still-active Chickenfoot -- right, and righteously. After a short video montage of career highlights, the boyish 66-year-old -- sporting a T-shirt advertising his Beach Bar Rum and red pants -- kicked off with "There's Only One Way to Rock" before diving into Montrose's muscular "Rock Candy," and looked throughout the night like he was having probably more fun than anybody else in the venue. The desire to be "at your service" even included putting on a Hawaiian shirt and seriously goofy hat handed to him by fans during Van Halen`s "When Its Love," brandishing another fan's sign that read "We just got engaged at the Cabo Wabo" (Hagar's nightclub in Mexico), signing autographs during Van Halen's "Why Can't This Be Love" and even letting a female fan who crashed the stage during VH's "Best of Both Worlds" have an extended stay and even sing one of the choruses with him.

And the video shown rear-stage during VH's "Right Now" encouraged donations to Detroit's Gleaners Food Bank, noting that "Right now people in Detroit are hungry. You can help."

The rest of the show mixed other VH hits ("Poundcake," "Finish What Ya Started") with Hagar favorites such as "Little White Lie" and "Heavy Metal," many accompanied by their original music videos. He preceded "I Can't Drive 55," preceded by Hagar taking note of political celebrity Sarah Palin blaming the song for a recent speeding ticket. "Now I'm gonna vote for her!" Hagar announced with a laugh. "At least she's listening to the right (stuff)."

The night's only miscue, perhaps, was putting Chickenfoot's "Oh Yeah" -- a good song but not quite up to the standards of the rest of the set -- in the encore, where it was a bit of a speed bump between "Right Now" and "Rock and Roll." Hagar finished things on a quiet note, with an acoustic rendering of VH's "Dreams" and, of course, a promise that this would not be his last visit to the metro area.

Service rendered, successfully.

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